Managing stress, making a plan key to sticking with exercise

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

QUESTION: My goal is to exercise consistently, at least 5 days a week. The problem is that I start off great, but then stop after just a few weeks.

ANSWER: Many people struggle to find the right fit when it comes to working out. If you haven’t already made a plan, I would take time to outline the types of activities that you enjoy, along with the amount of time you can realistically devote.

Your choices should be your own, meaning that you are designing your exercise program to your personal preferences.

For example, you may be someone who does better with structure, a more methodical and organized form of exercise. If this is the case, your plan might reflect doing a set number of minutes of aerobic activity, a specific number of reps and sets of strength training exercises, at the same time of day. If you prefer to mix things up rather than a more formal plan, this might entail going for a walk one day, riding a bike the next, swimming or yoga class the next, and so on. For strength training you could split your routine into different muscle groups on different days, and/or vary the number of sets and reps.

Once you have a good idea of what works best for you, I would suggest logging your workouts to monitor progress. You’ll soon recognize where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and what needs to be tweaked.

Other things to keep in mind:

Regular strength training and cardio workouts are great ways to stay in shape, but they aren’t the only options. If you lose motivation because you aren’t living up to your expectations, try replacing the word “exercise” in your mind, with the word “movement” instead. Exercise outdoors instead of inside. Reframing thoughts provides an alternate way to think about fitness and can be just the trick you need to keep going.

Everyone has bad days, and there is nothing wrong with taking a day off from exercise now and then. If you find you are continually making excuses however, it would be smart to examine your reasons, and begin writing them down. This will help you to recognize what is keeping you from achieving your goals.

Stress management. The amount of stress we experience from day to day has a great deal of influence on how well we function. Here, there are two scenarios that might negatively affect your plans to exercise. If you find yourself in a constant state of motion and interaction with others, sooner or later this will create stress, even if you don’t realize it. It is important to take time to relax and unwind periodically throughout the day, even if it is only for a few minutes. On the other side of the coin, if you have little to no interactions throughout the day, feelings of boredom, sadness or anxiety can creep in, zapping your motivation. Stay aware so that you can stay ahead of potential roadblocks.

Marjie Gilliam is an International Sports Sciences Master certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. She owns Custom Fitness Personal Training Services LLC. Send email to marjie@ohtrainer.com.

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